Taber . . . Who? Christ Followers and the Tabernacle

Taber . . . Who? Christ Followers and the Tabernacle
Written by: Larry Elliott

Few of us spend much time considering the tabernacle of the Old Testament. I am guilty of skimming these portions of scripture as tedious and of little import to me personally. However, if we were to measure value by the number of words (pages, chapters etc.) we might reconsider this thinking. The story of creation in Genesis gets 2 chapters, 50 chapters are given to the description of the tabernacle and its related ministries!
The word tabernacle is defined as a tent or temporary habitation, it is used as a descriptor of our natural bodies in the N.T. It is used technically and specifically among the Jews as “a movable building, so contrived as to be taken to pieces with ease and reconstructed, for the convenience of being carried during the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness. It was of a rectangular figure, thirty cubits long, ten broad, and ten high. The interior was divided into two rooms by a vail or curtain, and it was covered with four different spreads or carpets.” NET Bible.

So, as a Christ follower, why should I care about the tabernacle? A dusty old tent that the nation of Israel dragged through the desert for 40 years doesn’t seem all that exciting to me! 😊

Some thoughts:
  1. God “tabernacled” with them. The detailed plans of the tabernacle were a constant visual reminder to Israel of God’s presence – indeed, his desire to be present with them – to “tabernacle” with them! In a land where idol worship and pagan sacrifice were the norm, Israel was taught the price of sin, the need for holiness, the proper and only way to approach their holy God by observing the requirements of the tabernacle. They could only approach God through a blood sacrifice and a mediating priesthood.  
  2. God’s redemptive plan illustrated and clarified in the tabernacle. Israel had specific ordinances to observe that clearly noted the cost of sin. The first sin of Adam & Eve required a sacrifice. Noah and the patriarchs after him offered sacrifice frequently. Sacrifices were halted during the 400 years in Egypt but were reinstated at Passover to protect the lives of the firstborn in Jewish homes. The ministries of the tabernacle constantly highlighted the truth that sin is costly – it requires the shedding of blood and death as payment. For nearly 500 years this object lesson set the stage for all that God would do for mankind through Christ. 
  3. Christ’s high priestly role foreshadowed in the tabernacle. All that Christ did in his role as High Priest is better, more excellent, much superior, and more perfect than any other before him. 
  • Jesus sacrificial role was identified by John the Baptist. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
  • Jesus sat down upon completion of his work – the priests never sat down! “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” (Heb.10:11)
  • Jesus was both the High Priest and the sacrifice for sin! “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Heb. 9:26)

On the day of Christ’s crucifixion, at his declaration, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  the curtain separating the holy of holies was torn in two because there was no longer a need for a human High Priest. The eternal High Priest had completed his work, sat down at the right hand of God and opened access to eternity.

In August of 70 AD Jewish sacrifice ceased to be. Without a king, without a temple and without a priesthood Jewish sacrifice for sin passed into the history books.

Jesus is the eternal King who steps away from his throne to “tabernacle” with us. He is the eternal High Priest who mediates the blood sacrifice required for our sin. He is the sacrifice itself offered “once for all” unlike the repetitive offerings of the Jewish Law. He is the literal fulfillment of every aspect of the tabernacle!

NOTE: for a detailed description and application I would recommend, The Tabernacle: Shadows of the Messiah by David M. Levy, 1993, Friends of Israel

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